Going Unnoticed!

image from Power Thesaurus

This morning I am going to be cooking! Not on the grill or smoker–in the kitchen! And it’s not for dinner nor is it for supper. Well. . .unless you like indigenous leaves, plants, and dirt. Yep! That’s what I will be cooking this morning! I will bring the ingredients to a rolling boil, then turn down the heat and allow it to simmer for about 25 minutes. I will strain it into a jar, and then–the excitement begins in just 7 days!

Why am I getting excited? What’s the purpose of such a concoction? What am I talking about? The Why is gun season for deer hunting begins next Saturday. The purpose is to help me be successful in my hunting–meaning meat in the freezer. The Why is the necessity of being Unnoticed by the deer. Deer have a keen sense of smell. They can smell something out of place before they see it. For years I’ve spent good money on this product call odor neutralizers in hopes that the deer don’t smell my presence. The thing about these odor neutralizers is I can’t tell if they are working.

A good friend of mine told me about some dryer sheets that leave an earthy scent on your clothes. And with a little research on my part (and some deep thinking on my part), I discovered I didn’t need to purchase such a product–I can make my own. I will gather up some local vegetation as well as a good scoop of good old dirt–put them in a pot–let those aromas seep into that rainwater–and then pretreat my hunting clothes so that the aroma around me doesn’t attract the attention of those deer. My chances of a successful hunt rise exponentially if they don’t hear me, see me, or smell me. I need to be unnoticed! And what does all this have to do with the Kingdom Life? Glad you asked that question–because I have an answer–and an important point to make this morning.

While being unnoticed by the deer is essential for a successful hunt–being unnoticed as a follower of Jesus is a recipe for disaster. Going to a football game, you need a program so you can know who the players are. But nowadays–when it comes to being Citizens Of The Kingdom Of God–it’s hard to recognize which players are on which team.

The western church, particularly in the U.S. has been attempting, and I might add successfully, to blend in with the culture. The resulting calamity is that in many places the church has gone unnoticed. Churchians, Tenured Pew Sitters, and Aggressive Progressives have successfully sought a path to being unnoticed by the culture. It is no longer seen as a threat to the temporary Emporer of this world. Satan is no longer threatened–and so he is free to roam about, taking countless lives into an eternity of hopelessness.

But this methodology of being unnoticed fails to make this world–and the people who compose this world–any better. It’s a train wreck! Therefore I challenge each and every deeply committed follower of Jesus to become noticeable! Not my ranting and raving! But by becoming the model of the heart, mind, and Spirit of Jesus. Sure, standing out in this culture can make one feel uneasy. But following Jesus isn’t meant to make you feel easy and comfortable. It IS meant to make you noticeable in a good way. The chaos and frenzy that is all around us needs something different. It needs to see Jesus in YOU! The REAL Jesus, who is always radically different from the rest of the world, MUST be seen in you. As I go to gather my concoction, I leave you with these words:

 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)

How Much?

How Much? If you have followed me for any amount of time, you know me: I got questions! Lots of them! Not only am I afflicted with random thoughts–but I am blessed with an inquisitive, call it DNA. I know that some of my questions are a bit on the side of trifling, if not smack dab in the middle of the absurd. But not all of them! Case in point; today’s question: How much?

Customarily this question is asked in the marketplace, yard sales, and flea markets. “How much for that set of tires?” “How much for that necklace?” “How much for that table?” “How much do you want for the truck?” A shallow look at such questions doesn’t mean that the questioner wants to know How Much. What she or he really means is How Little Will It Take For THAT To Be Mine? Forget the manufacturer’s suggested retail price--HOW LITTLE will it cost me to make that mine! But let’s take that question out of the marketplace, yard sales, and flea market. Let’s put it into more important places!

How Much to be a citizen of the good old U.S. of A.? It costs you determination to overcome obstacles. It costs you the time and energy to be productive and add value to our nation and communities. It requires you to do your very best at work without slacking off or whining. It costs you to freely show kindness and courtesy to others. It costs you appreciation for those who protect and ensure your freedoms. It costs you to put the needs of the whole ahead of your own needs. Sometimes it even costs you your comfort by making personal sacrifices. What? Freedom isn’t free? Nope, buttercup, it’s not! Let’s go further with this question:

How Much to live in my neighborhood or community? To start, it costs you getting to know your neighbors. It costs you being helpful to your neighbors. It costs you giving up any prejudices you may be holding. And remember that prejudice isn’t about the color of a person’s skin–it’s about making judgments without knowing all of the facts. It costs you time and effort to make your neighborhood or community a better place. It costs you the willingness to care what’s happening–in the neighborhood or in another person’s life. This list can go on and on; but I will stop with one more query:

How Much does it cost to have inner peace and a higher purpose for your life? That’s not 2 questions; it’s just one. You can’t have inner peace without a higher purpose and you cannot live out that higher purpose without peace. Back to my opening statement. People are far more wanting to give just a little rather than what it really costs. They think the price is too high–but it’s not! Ever heard the expression “You get out of something what you put into it!”? That may be true–but not really! When time, effort, and personal sacrifice are put into a life that really matters and satisfies–it gives us back far more. Inner peace and that higher purpose doesn’t just land in our laps–it happens only when we seek and pursue The Right Kind Of Life!

Our peace and our true purpose comes at a great price. The Good News is the largest part of that price–the part we could never afford nor have the means to pay–has already been paid for, and it’s offered to us in this amazing thing called Grace! Being Grace, means we don’t have to pay for it–nor earn it. Think about these words and then apply them to every part of your life:

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of Himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of Himself that He had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, He set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, He stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, He lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Philippians 2:5-8 (The Message)

But remember my earlier comment that freedom isn’t free? Peace and our true purpose–and God’s offer of this gift–does cost us something. Just as Jesus made this Sacrifice for us–we also need to make a sacrifice to Him! And this sacrifice isn’t about earning that gift or deserving that gift. It’s about the only way to respond to God’s offer. So, How Much does it cost us? How Much does inner peace and living out our true purpose cost? Surrender! Give up our way of thinking and think the way Jesus thinks. I know it’s counter-intuitive, but it works. Stop following the path of How Little and start pursuing life as God intended all along. And don’t focus or worry about How Much such a pursuit costs–simply enjoy the contentment that comes from walking with Jesus!

What’s Your Motto?

  • Just Do It
  • A Diamond is Forever
  • When you care enough to send the very best
  • I’d walk a mile for a Camel
  • Quality never goes out of style
  • Finger Lickin’ Good
  • With a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good
  • Snap, Crackle and Pop!
  • So easy, a caveman can do it
  • The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection
  • The Ultimate Driving Machine
  • The Quicker Picker Upper
  • We Bring Good Things to Life
  • The King of Beers
  • Fly the friendly skies
  • Because You’re Worth It
  • Let’s Go Places
  • Have It Your Way
  • I’m Lovin’ It
  • Betcha can’t eat just one!
  • When it rains, it pours
  • Taste the Rainbow
  • What Happens Here, Stays Here
  • When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight

Mottos! Yep! That’s what’s stirring up my gray matter this morning. When it comes to advertising–a great motto helps consumers to remember their product. So, what is YOUR motto? To help you tell me yours, I’ll tell you one of mine: “If you don’t like my sarcasm, don’t ask me stupid questions!”

Even our good old U.S. of A. has a motto: In God We Trust! The thing about mottos is that you gotta back it up–otherwise people just ignore or forget it. Unfortunately, with my aforementioned motto–I back it up with a healthy, sometimes an over-abundance of sarcasm. But that motto on all our currency? That thing about Trust In God? Not a good motto in these times–because it’s not backed up with action.

Before you start ranting and raving about the nefarious cesspool otherwise known as Washington D.C., know I’m not talking about that ash heap. This morning I am talking only to those who self-identify as Christian. I still remember decades ago getting emails about how Madeline O’Hare was going to the Supreme Court in an attempt to get In God We Trust removed from our currency. Now, I would have bought a plane ticket to see that, seeing she had been dead for years!

Christians want it on our currency–but it would be far better for them, for our nation, and for our world if it was just removed from the currency! There, I said it! But before you stop reading this morning’s pensiveness, read what is next. It would be far better for us, for our nation, and for our world if you have a motto that you embody with your attitudes, words, thoughts, and actions.

Yes! we need to Trust In God That’s a no-brainer! But more than saying we need to Trust In God, we need a motto that shows how much we Trust In God! Forget putting it on currency and government seals. Let’s put a new motto on our ordinary, going here and there, doing this and that life. And maybe it’s time I, too, changed my personal motto to one that better suits what God is doing in my life. So, what should it be, America? Hey! I have an idea. What about this one?

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13 (NLT)

If we adopt this as our motto it means we would have to stop looking at political parties, the hollow (and I do mean hollow, not hallowed! I said what I meant, and I meant what I said!) halls of academia, and even ourselves in order to see a real transformation in our times; and really live through the strength of Jesus! How strong is Jesus? He carried the weight of all our sins while hanging on the Cross. And somehow, as strange as it may sound to some, I believe Jesus will strengthen us to be a light that brings hope to the hopeless. Call me crazy! You won’t be the first, and I dare say, you won’t be the last!

HELP WANTED: Signs Of The Times

Help wanted sign in front of store front

Snarky! The dictionary defines snarky as “having a rudely critical tone or manner“. I prefer my own definition of snarky: “it’s the combination of a lot of common sense and frustration fueled by the stupidity of others.” For some snarky is an ability; for others it’s a gift. I have been doubly blessed with both the ability and gift of snarkiness. This is also a curse because I have to fight the battle every day to use it at the most inappropriate moments. Most days I manage to keep Snarky locked up in the closet. But this morning Snarky is banging on that door, begging to be let out. And I can’t keep it locked up. So fasten your seatbelts, it may be a bumpy flight.

There was a season when the signs outside a business said things like: Clearance Sale! Buy One Get One! Inventory Liquidation! Mattresses 50% Off! Going Out Of Business! But do you know the most frequent sign seen today in front of businesses? HELP WANTED! Some are even offering sign on bonuses. What’s happened? Has the pool of available employees been abducted by an armada of UFOs? Nope! And thus Snarky has a message today.

So many people do today not want to WORK! Every day I see a boatload of people who appear able to work, but they aren’t! Those who do show up only want a paycheck. Earning that paycheck for them is as foreign as reading and properly pronunciate the Classical Greek language. The concept of hard work is anathema and they are having no part of it! It’s like 3 day old chewing gum–they find it tasteless.

Why? Why? Why? Would you believe I have some theories kindly given to me by Snarky? One reason is PARENTS! Every day I see some snooty-nosed kid with a $50,000 truck with $3,000 rims and tires, and the front end jacked-up. How do high school kids afford it? They don’t! Daddy and/or Momma wants them to have it, not earn it! I don’t know if they do it out of love or whatever reason. It’s not love giving someone whatever they want. Doing such harms them and takes away from their potential.

Another reason Snarky gives me is the U.S. Government. They reward people for doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Instead of giving incentives to become productive citizens, they hand out money as quick as their intaglio printer can spit it out. I’ve heard people laid off because of the COVID-19 pandemic say, “I can earn almost or even as much staying at home as I did working.” Now tell me, WHERE IN THE NAME OF GOD’S CREATION DOES THAT ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO WORK? Sorry for the yelling; I momentarily lost control of Snarky.

So what can be done? Well, parents can shut off the muck of showering their love for those kids with money and trying to make it easy for their kids. Life ain’t easy–but it can be very good! I always told my kids: You can work hard, or you can work smart! I still remember to this day back in 1992 at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. My son had just finished Basic Training, and one of the first things he said to me was: Dad, you were right! He may not remember it, but Dad sure does. Parents, teach your kids that work, even hard work, isn’t a curse–it’s an opportunity to grow and improve yourself.

Government can turn off those intaglio presses and remind everyone that nothing important, significant, or valuable is ever achieved without both determination and hard work. This may well be the thing least likely to happened. It seems our government was us to depend on THEM! Seems to me, back in the 1770’s this was one of the things that the King of England wanted–in addition they want money from those who actually worked so they would not have to work.

Finally, for those of us who understand the value of hard work, let’s doing something different. Instead of complaining about all those people sitting at home doing nothing or shopping at WalMart with their government incentives to do nothing when there are all these HELP WANTED signs–we create opportunities for teaching moments. If you’re always telling how useless they are they will not embrace those teaching moments. We need to re-teach people that there is no shame in applying themselves and that hard work is not a curse or a sin. Excuse me, I need to shove Snarky back in the closet!

Name That Druthers!

Lots of money or great looks? Unhappy CEO or happy sales clerk? Car or truck? Big mansion or cabin in the mountains? To be feared or liked? To be revered or loved? Sports car or pick-up truck? New vehicle or customized hot rod? Communism, socialism, or representative democracy? Smokin’ hot body or inner peace? To have others wait on you hand and foot or help others? The red one or blue one? Swimming pool or hot tub? I’d druther have the hot tub!

Perhaps in other parts of the world the word “druthers” isn’t often used. But here in the South, it often helps determine if you are really Southern or just a “wanna be”. Druthers are not necessarily a bad thing. For example, “I druther have some rain than this dusty dry condition.” Or, “I druther not have to go through another hurricane or tornado.” Or even, “I druther my car’s air conditioner work than having to keep all the windows rolled down.” The Druthers can inspire to us dream and work hard to achieve those dreams.

But there is another side to the druthers; one we all need to fend off. It’s the druthers of discontentment with life as it happens. It happens when we believe that life is unfair and unreasonable. It happens because we think that life owes us. It happens when we want an easy and comfortable life. It happens when someone has something we don’t have, that we think we deserve. It happens when we look for things to make us more than happy–but fulfilled and content. Can we be honest with each other? Our culture is running on empty and about to collapse because so many want their druthers rather than fulfillment and contentment.

Unfortunately, these same pursuers of druthers cannot see, will not see–there is a better way of life. You see, even IF we get our druthers, sooner or later (usually sooner) something else catches our eyes and we desire another druther; then another and another and another! Get the point? But what’s the alternative? And here is where so many get it wrong–oh, so wrong! They resign to misery and despair. But what if–WHAT IF I say–there is another alternative that will never leave you in discontentment, misery, and despair? Would you be interested in knowing what that is?

Here it is: Surrender and submit your moments, your each and every moment to Jesus! Druthers will never give you what Jesus gives us when we follow God’s Plan for our life. God isn’t interested in taking away the joy and fun of life. God is interested in keeping your from the discontentment, misery, and despair that marks and mars so many lives. He does this by giving us the life we are created to have–a life than doesn’t depend on our DRUTHERS–but lives within His grace and mercy–which is His Love. Things you love cannot love you back. But God–well, His love is always there–even when we can’t get our druthers!

Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. 

Philippians 4:11-13 (The Message)

By the way, that mansion and fancy car? They have a lot of maintenance needs. But Jesus gives us everything we need–maybe not our druthers–but always what we need!

The Rich Lighter Life!

I have no clue as to what you are thinking about today’s Title: The Rich Lighter Life! Maybe you thought about a gold plated with diamonds Zippo lighter. Nope, that’s not it. Unless you are from the country, you may not know what Rich Lighter is. Well, I’m from the country. In fact, a friend posted one of those “tests” to see how “country” you are. Out of a possible high score of 30, I scored 28. I could have scored 29 but I have never touched an electric fence. I’m not as dumb as I act.

As you may know now, Debbie and I are on our annual spiritual retreat to the Smoky Mountains. We rent a cabin for a week and only venture out once, twice at the most. The remainder of our time is spent here in this cabin. This particular cabin has a wood burning fire place. Being winter and all, I decide to pack some fire wood to enjoy the fireplace. You know that to have a fire in the fire place, one needs something to start the fire. I could have cheated and went to WalMart and purchased those neat little fire starters. But remember, I’m a country boy.

Before we left I went just to the edge of the woods surrounding our home and found some Rich Lighter. Researching for this post I discovered that some call it Fatwood. When a pine tree is either cut or is knocked over when it is alive, it is filled with sap. The sap, or resin if you prefer, trapped in the stump becomes hard over time. This sap contains  terpene, a volatile hydrocarbon. I know you are not wanting a lesson in organic chemistry, so I will get to the point.

This hardened resin is very flammable. With just a small handful of Rich Lighter, one can easily start a fire. I put some newspaper in the fireplace, added my Rich Lighter, then the kindling and the wood and lit the newspaper. The picture above is the results of my endeavors. And to show you how little it takes, the picture below is how much I used. The Alabama Crimson Tide mug is symbolic of the power of Rich Lighter:

The Holy Spirit prompted me to do some thinking about Rich Lighter and fire places. The question many folks are asking, especially “church folks” is, “What is it going to take to change our churches, our communities, our nation, our world? Things are out of control!” It’s a great question to ask–IF–you are willing to dig deep for the answer. Asking the question in the expectation of someone else answering it is futile, ineffective, and fruitless. Nothing CAN change unless one knows the answer–and I found the answer in a handful of Rich Lighter.

What’s the answer to this “burning” question? YOU! That’s right, YOU! You may be thinking, probably ARE thinking, “How can I change what’s happening in Washington D.C.? How can I end domestic violence? How can I feed all those hungry families? How can I get people to listen and respect each other? How can I keep our church from closing its doors? How can I help people imprisoned by addictions? How can I do this in a way that really makes a difference? It’s really simple, folks. Remember my handful of Rich Lighter.

Just as a roaring fire can happen in a fireplace with just a handful of Rich Lighter, people, places, and situations change–just one person at a time. And YOU are the person that will start that Fire that will bring lasting change. It’s just that simple–not easy–but simple. Decades ago Kirk Kaiser wrote a song that I still sing today. The name of it is Pass It On. The first time I heard it was in 1971. It was a Sunday night Youth Service. I knew God was calling me into a relationship with Him. But I fought it off by holding on to the oak pew in front of me. I held on so tight I know that my fingerprints are permanently embedded in that pew at Green’s Chapel. That’s what it took for me to resist God’s Grace. And I succeeded. But, a little over a year later, in not so dramatic a moment, I finally surrendered to His Grace. And as the saying goes, “The Rest Is History!”

If you have the Holy Spirit inside you, (you do if Jesus is your Lord and Savior), that Fire is more than enough to start the process of transformation in people, places, and situations. Just as Rich Lighter easily ignites and spreads its fire to other wood, YOU can spread the Fire that will make the difference. But changing the world will never happen as long as you expect someone else to answer the question. I leave you with two songs–one is for me because I am a country boy–the second one is for YOU, Just listen to it:

Double Down–Monday Musings 10 January 2020

When playing blackjack, there’s a certain set of conditions when you want to “double down”; or so I’m told. The reason is to have an opportunity to double your winnings, or so I’m told. Today’s Monday Musing is about doubling down but not at the blackjack table–but in one’s spiritual life. Now here’s the passage I’m looking at this evening–James 3:10–12

10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! 11 Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? 12 Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.

The context of these words of James is about our words. And I would never take Brother James out of context. But. . .there is a principle that is also present. Principles work in every situation. The Principle that Brother James applies to the “tongue” is verse 12. It’s a basic principle from nature: Something designed to produce only one thing, cannot produce something different.

Yet, there are many today who have forgotten this most basic Principle. So they have doubled down and actually think it works. We are seeing a culture of people who are trying to navigate life by doubling down. Unlike in blackjack where there are certain card combinations you would NEVER double down on, there are those who double down with the wrong “cards”. They live and operate with a double heart and a double mind.

They do this by mixing Biblical Truths with Cultural Values, with Cultural Values being the “Wild Card” that overrides Biblical Truths. They embrace their Cultural Value and then find a Bible verse to support it. And the verses that don’t support that Cultural Value–they either find an excuse why the Bible is wrong, or they simply ignore it altogether.

Truth is you cannot follow Jesus by trying to align the Bible with Cultural Values. Remember Brother James’ Principle: Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring. You simply cannot align Biblical Truth with some Cultural Values. But you can do this: You can transform Cultural Values by faithfully living by Biblical Truths. You can try to Double Down with Cultural Values AND Biblical Truth–but The House will win every time, and you will lose.

You Can Pine, You Can Whine, Or You Can Shine!

This morning my inspiration came from Terry Teykl (check him out here). It was yesterday’s email that I finally got around to reading this morning. He said, well, just let me Control C and Control V (that’s “copy and paste”): “Jesus was crucified between two thieves, one on each side of him. Today, we also live with the possibility of two thieves taking their place on each side of us.  One thief is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow.  Both of these thieves steal from us and stop us from living in the present. But gratitude is an antidote to their thievery.”

When we allow the chaotic culture that is inundating us to hold our attention, then Terry’s 2 thieves get on each side of us; and the results are annihilating any sense or hope of being Kingdom People. You’ve seen it: people who are pining day after day for what use to be. Then there are those whining that the future is hopeless. Two thieves who taunt us into submission. And we, who should be That Different Voice, have pined and whined our way into The Enemy’s Camp. Trust me on this one, The Enemy takes great joy when those who should be following Jesus allow the thieves to steal our purpose.

I propose to you today that there is a third option. Instead of pining and whining why not start Shining? Supposedly the British author Charles Dickens once said that in America we have it all mixed up. He said, “Use that one day just for complaining and griping. Use the other 364 days to thank God for the many blessings he has showered upon you.” Sound advice, even if he is from across the pond.

What better way to counter the culture than choosing to be grateful! Read and listen carefully to what Paul wrote:

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)

Paul didn’t say to be thankful for, but be thankful in! Think you don’t have anything to be thankful for? Check out Joe’s story! He was pampered and spoiled by his daddy. He was daddy’s favorite and he loved to brag about it. But one day his brothers threw him in a hole, took his prized coat, covered it with blood to pretend he had been dragged off by a wild animal, and then sold Arrogant Joe into slavery. If that wasn’t bad enough he was sold again in a country where he didn’t know their language. He managed to rise up only to be lied about and thrown into prison. If that wasn’t bad enough, he helped a fellow prisoner who said he wouldn’t forget Joe–but he did; for 2 years he forgot all about Joe.

Joe could have pined for the days when he was his daddy’s favorite son with all the perks it brought. Joe could have whined about his situation in that Egyptian prison–which was not much more than the hole his brothers pushed him into. Two thieves on each side of Joe; but Joe did not choose to pine or whine. He made the conscious choice to Shine! All those bad times really did to Joe was sand off his arrogance and taught him the importance of Godly Character.

And when Joe could have exacted revenge on those brothers–he didn’t listen to Pining and he ignored Whining. Here’s what he said:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Genesis 50:20 (ESV)

I love how The Message renders it: “Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now—life for many people.” Joseph was not thankful for the pit or the prison or the injustice. Joseph was thankful that God was busy at work redeeming all the bad in order to bring out The Shine!

Don’t let those treacherous thieves called Pining and Whining steal your life. Do what Paul said, Be thankful! So today, go out there and be thankful. When you’re thankful you can’t help but be joyful, kind and helpful. It will make you Shine like the sun; better yet–Shine Like The Son! God is working for good in your life and mine–even if we are unjustly thrown in prison like Joseph. And if that’s not enough to cause you to desire Gratitude in this day–do it anyway because it will annoy the stew out of the piners and whiners. I’d call that a great day!

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him–and it will when you choose GRATITUDE!

Enough Is Enough!

After my first cup of coffee and morning worship music, I begin my morning devotions. The first one I always read is from J.D. Walt. (You can find it at https://www.seedbed.com/daily-text/ ). This morning’s title was Are You a “For” Person or an “Against” Person? (You can CLICK HERE to read it). Here is the first paragraph:

Let me ask it another way. What are you for? Many people (if not most) cannot answer this question with any sufficient or satisfying detail. Over the course of life and time, people slowly become cynical about their ideals, hopes, and aspirations (and even their faith) and wind up becoming more defined by what they oppose than what they are for.

J.D. Walt (Seedbed Daily Text)

And immediately, this thought hit me hard: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

ENOUGH of being ugly towards other people. ENOUGH of the negative comments about this, that or the other. ENOUGH pointing the finger of blame at this person or that group. People, HEAR ME! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

The time has come for us as Followers of Jesus to become known for what we are FOR rather than what, especially WHO we are AGAINST. I’ve seen and heard too much of it already. And, I shamefully confess before you the reader, I’ve been guilty of this!

THEREFORE I resolve to immediate resign from the “I’m Against Committee”. But this isn’t enough. I resolve to be, in J.D.’s words, a FOR PERSON. Here are some of the things I am FOR:

  • First, and foremost, I am FOR Jesus and I will reveal this through my thoughts, attitudes, words and actions.
  • I am FOR kindness and compassion.
  • I am FOR helping people any way I can, regardless if they “deserve” it or not.
  • I am FOR saying and doing things that builds up others rather than tear them down.
  • I am FOR seeing the beauty around me, especially in the chaos around me.
  • I am FOR being grateful for everything I have.
  • I am FOR being both sincere and authentic, warts and all.
  • I am FOR holding the door open for others.
  • I am FOR listening to others with all my attention.
  • I am FOR forgiving others regardless of the offence or depth of the wound.

I could keep going on and on, and you would give up reading my list of what I am FOR. So let me leave you with Paul’s thoughts about what to be FOR.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

And be sure you love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!

Captain, That’s Not Logical!

(image from http://www.npr.com)

I grew up watching Star Trek (the real and original one, bad acting and all). I’ve seen all the Star Trek movies, original cast of course; after all, I am a purist. Mr. Spock has always been my favorite character. His love AND insistence on Logic and the Logical course of action was the mark of his character. I think what drew me in to this character of Logic Based Decisions was the people surrounding him. Jim. Scotty. Dr. McCoy, aka, Bones. If ever there was a trio of Illogical characters, that trio embodied it. Thus, the conflict between Logical Spock and the Illogical Trio.

And these random thoughts got me to thinking about our current state of affairs–as a nation and as a church. And that is the form of Logic being used today. The trending Logic of today is driven by. . . what always drives Logic: The Current Attitudes, Values and Morals. Attitudes are how we interpret life. Values are how we distinguish between the important and not important. Morals are conclusions on what is right and what wrong; what is acceptable and what is unacceptable.

The news outlets, political parties, analysts, noisy leaders, even church leaders, are using a Logic based on their Attitudes, Values and Morals. I think even Mr. Spock would say:

And that is The Problem. But those of us of operate out of the realm of Common Sense Logic are left wanting to scream and pull out our hair. And trust me on this one, I don’t have much hair to pull out; I’m trying to keep what little I have. But seriously, there are times I want to grab some people by the collar and give them a good old Leroy Jethro Gibbs slap on the back of the head. But. . . that would be, in the words of Spock:

The Logic of today is to argue, be hateful, condescending and plain ol’ ugly towards people who’s Logic is different. The results are deepening alienation from each other; and this is not how God designed life for us. We are created to live TOGETHER, working along side Him in discovering and tending to His Creation. The current state of Logic is ripping apart the fabric of society–and destroying countless lives.

As just one example of many, consider the number of suicides found within the LBGTQ community. The church has NOT helped them; and in my Logic if you are not helping, then you are hurting. I will NOT go as far as my progressive friends and say the high rate of suicide is the sole fault of the church. But face it–we have treated them at times badly, very badly. But even then, they have a choice in how they receive and react to the bad treatment. Here’s a bit of Side Bar Wisdom: Even if you think you don’t have a choice, THAT IS your choice.

When I say the church has done harm, it is because of the choice of words directed toward the LBGTQ community. You may say, “But Preacherman, it’s a sin–an abomination to the Lord.” So they choose ugly words and direct them towards gay people. But there are other things that are also abominations to God:

Oh, you think you haven’t done anything that’s an abomination to the Lord? Ever told a lie, even an alleged “little white lie”? Never sowed discord?

Well, I am about to chase some rabbits so I need to get back on point. The current Logic doesn’t work. It sets us up for failure. To change our Logic we need to change our, what? Attitudes, Values And Morals. Align them with God. I know, I know, all of God’s Logic contradicts human Logic. And that’s a good thing.

The Attitude of God is that we are all messed up somewhere, but there is still within all of us His Image–so He treats us with Graciousness and Mercy.

The Values of God is that we are so important to Him, that He wants us to be delivered and set free to become the person HE knows is within us–the person who reflects His Glory.

The Morals of God–what He knows is right or wrong, is what He longs to implant within us through the Holy Spirit.

Does all of this contradict the Logic of our world?

Our Logic isn’t working. Remember that the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. Maybe Mr. Spock is on to something. . .but God is definitely on to something–something great:

It’s really logical to Love God With All Your Heart. Love Others The Way Jesus Loves You. And Make Sure All The Glory Goes To Him.

I Choose Persistence

(Picture from lionessesofafrica.com)

Tuesday I made my choice to be joyful. Wednesday I chose to be joyful and hopeful. Yesterday my choice was to be joyful, hopeful and focused. Was I 100% true to my choices? Honestly? Not 100%. . .but I was close to 90% true. Maybe it was that steroid shot I got at the doctor’s office for this hacking cough and sore throat that got me to 90%. But I was focused–so I’ve got that going for me. And you can have that going for you, too. Situations and circumstances can change your choices. . .IF you allow them to do that. Choices are within your realm. Even if you don’t make a choice, THAT is your choice. Geez, I’m sound more like Andy Andrews every day. . .but that’s not a bad thing.

So, on this Friday. . .what some call T.G.I.F. . . .My choice is Persistence. Today I will be joyful, hopeful, focused and persistent. You could say I will be persistently joyful. . . persistently hopeful . . . persistently focused . . . and persistently Persistent.

Persistence is a much needed quality in my Walk with Jesus. Life is filled with interruptions, obstacles, difficulties and then throw in the frequent visits of Murphy’s Law. Those who say Walking With Jesus is Easy Peasy all the time–well. . .they haven’t been walking with the Real Jesus. Without Persistence I will never see and never know what it means to live in and be a part of the Epic Saga known as The Kingdom Of God. Another reason I need to make this choice today (and every day after today) is because in our culture, Persistence is a rare commodity.

Now, I can choose to complain, whine and b…., almost let a bad word slip, about the lack of Persistence OR I can choose to be an example of Persistence. Choices made, every Choice we make has an outcome that is given birth with the Choice. Consider the outcome of each choice. . .and the outcomes are really obvious.

If I choose to complain that rather than persist, our culture quits, whines, plays the victim card, and says they are being disenfranchised. . .what has changed? The only thing changed is NOTHING. The result is I become angry, frustrated and agitated. And know what? These generations of quitters, whiners, and overly sensitive souls will continue to be quitters, whiners and overly sensitive souls. And I become either an angry man or a despondent man. In my book, neither suits me. . . and I know it doesn’t please Abba, Poppa.

But if my choice is to be Persistent, two things will happen. One thing is that I will achieve my goal. . .I will succeed at finishing a task. . .I will not be defeated by any obstacle. The other thing? Maybe, just maybe someone in this aimless culture of consistent quitters will notice my Persistence. Maybe it will make them curious about me. If they are curious about me and my Persistence, there’s a good probability they will, at the very least, THINK about quitting being a quitter.

Who knows, maybe it will even open up a conversation about that strange thing called Persistence! Then things will begin to be different, not the same. If 2 of us are Persistent then we can reach maybe 2 more quitters who engage us in open conversation and they decide to be Persistent. Now we have 4 of us who are Persistent. And maybe the 4 of us becomes 8. . .then 16. . .then 32. . .get the point now?

So today my choice is Persistence. Seems like a good choice to add to the others. . .don’t you think? Oh. . .one other thing: Persistently love God with all your heart. Persistently love others the way Jesus loves you. And Persistently make sure all the glory goes to Him. . .Persist!

It’s Hard To Live In Exile And Harder To Do What God Says About Your Place Of Exile

Do your circumstances feel like you are living in exile? You work at a job that under-appreciates your work, and under-pays you for overworking you. You have been terminated from work and the pile of bills is now a mountain of bills. Your spouse has left you for more excitement that you were able to provide. You wish your spouse WOULD leave because all they do is belittle you and tell you all that you do wrong. You look in the mirror with great disgust at the person looking back at you because you hate what you see. The doctor prescribes a series of chemo and radiation treatments because of your cancer. The church you attend is embroiled in political and in-house bickering and fighting. Your parents lament on a daily basis on how you could have done better. The air conditioner, refrigerator, and hot water heater all died the same day. The Sheriff’s Department just posted an eviction notice on your door.

Now, add to all of that the cultural and political wars going on in the good old U.S. of A. The news channels blaring away at all the upheaval, and the violence that is happening every day, all day long. I don’t know about you, but there have been many moments where I felt like I was in exile.

Feelings of exile have a long history. In many cases, it was more than a feeling, it was a national reality. Jeremiah lived in such a time–a literal time of exile. And Jeremiah has something to tell them–something God wanted them to know.

This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.”

Jeremiah 29:2-7 (NLT)

They are living in a foreign land, under foreign rule, with foreign customs and a pagan culture. Pagan Culture–does that resonant with you? It resonates with me as a Kingdom Citizen. And I hear a lot of voices that seem to echo the same sentiments. Face it, as Followers of Jesus our culture neither likes nor embraces Kingdom Truth. This time has been appropriately called “The Post Christian Era”. Values of the Kingdom of God are considered outdated. And add to this, that many who professed to be Followers of Jesus looked nothing at all like Jesus. In fighting and self righteousness turned many away from becoming Followers of Jesus.

So, how do we live in a time and place that feels like exile? It seems to me, that the words of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies spoken to Jeremiah still apply today. Look carefully again at what God instructs those exiles to do:

Build homes, and plan to stay

Establish your allegiance and loyalty to Jesus and God’s Kingdom. Be that city on a hill, that candle on the candlestand.

Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. 

Be a producer of the positive wherever you are. Do not lower yourself to engage in the bitter fighting that is so entrenched in this culture. Bring good things into your part of this dysfunctional culture.

Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away!

Reproduce Kingdom Values within your family, your circle of close friends, at work–wherever you happen to be. Be the example and encourage others to be that example. You reproduce those Kingdom Values as you teach others–and they see them verified in your daily life.

So far so good, right? Challenging, yes–but doable. But there’s more–and it’s going to be a lot more difficult.

And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile.

Did you just see that? Work for the peace and prosperity of those people who make us feel like we are in exile. It’s simple, really simple. If you are on the left–help and pray that the right would be at peace and experience prosperity. For you on the right–help and pray that the left would be at peace and experience peace. If you are a centrist, then do the same for both the left and the right.

It doesn’t seem fair or just that God would tell us to do that. But…don’t miss that next line from the passage: “the city where I sent you into exile.” God sent Judah into exile because of their disobedience. And for us today? God sends us into the places of exile because they need to be reclaimed and restored to the Kingdom of God. Their reason for exile was disobedience–and our reason is Obedience–obedience to God’s call to wage spiritual warfare against Satan.

Oh, and that last line: “Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” OK, do you want to see our culture transformed? The pray for their Shalom. That is the Hebrew word used. It means, among many things, peace. Pray for the opposite side from you to do well, be strong and have inner peace. If you don’t, well, God said what the outcome will be: You will NOT be strong or be well or have peace.

Your welfare rests upon what you want for others, even those on the opposite side. Followers of Jesus, we are in exile–but we are in exile for a purpose and a reason–to bring The Kingdom Of God “on earth as it is in heaven.” If you want some practical advice on how to accomplish this, well…listen to Paul in Romans 12:21

As long as you are agitated and mad at your culture, nothing will change and you will be miserable. It’s not easy to do–it’s not meant to be easy. It’s meant to cause you to turn to God, seek His Holy Spirit and rely on The Spirit. It doesn’t make sense to do it this way. But…it does work!

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him…and it does when you pray for the peace of your enemies.